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November 22, 2010

Arbitration decisions looming

The Orioles have until midnight tomorrow to decide whether or not to offer their two "Type B" free agents -- starter Kevin Millwood and reliever Koji Uehara -- arbitration. If it is offered and the player accepts, they'll be back with the Orioles on a one-year deal for 2011. If they decline it and sign with another club, the Orioles will get a draft pick as compensation.

Uehara, who is eligible for arbitration based upon a provision in his contract when he signed with the Orioles from Japan before the 2009 season, is really the only call the Orioles have to make. He made $5 million last year, and based on his impressive 2010 season, he'd likely get a decent-sized raise. There is no way of knowing for sure, but Uehara's price for 2011 could be in the $7 million to $8 million range. Still, I would think the Orioles, who are trying to re-sign the closer, would offer Uehara arbitration -- though I'm told that hasn't been decided.

As for Millwood, I really don't think there is a decision to be made. There is little to no chance the Orioles will offer him arbitration unless there is some agreement with his agent, Scott Boras, that he will decline it. Millwood lost 16 games last year and had a 5.10 ERA, arguably the worst season of his career. But he also made $12 million.

Millwood would certainly make a lot more money in arbitration than he will on the free-agent market this offseason, so it would make more sense for the veteran to accept it. However, he likely won't get that opportunity.

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Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 10:41 AM | | Comments (11)


Jeff, Do you think there will be a number of non-tenders throughout Baseball this year? I'm quessing there could be some names that interest the O's in the nontendered list, possibly including the two SS mentioned last week in trades for Hernandez.

Lots of teams seem to waive guys around whom they are considering nontendering, sometimes in a ploy to get their agent talking about a reasonable multiyear deal.

Arbitration would seem to make sense with Koji since the O's seemed inclined to only offer him a one yr deal anyway. Might get him a little cheaper nontendering him and then resigning him, but might lose him to a another team trying to shore up their pen.

How much would a pitcher with a 5.10 era get in arbitration? I would think it would be considerably less then 12m.
Do the O's or Millwood have any interest in pursuing a deal?

I can't see that he's going to get bowled over by contenders offering rotation slots. The O's could offer him a contract that qives him spring training and with a side agreement that he can opt out or be released if he's not traded before the deadline if that's his desire.

It could give the O's an innings eater until Britton, or Tillman are ready to man regular rotation slots.

One last question, are the O's considering Vanderhurk as a contender for a rotation slot? If they do, do they need a veteran starter at all?

Jeff Z's reply: Yes, I do think there will be a number of non-tenders. I, however, don't think Bartlett and Hardy will be among them. Both are solid players and I would think the Twins and Rays could get something in a trade for them before just letting them go. Not sure what Millwood could get. You can cut him significantly but he did make 30 starts last year and pitched well at times. I'd be very surprised if an arbitrator would rule in favor of a 50 percent cut or something like that. Either way, I think both sides ready to head in a different direction. Think VandenHurk will be in the mix for a rotation spot, but most see him as a long man/swing man out of pen. O's still would like to sign vet starter/innings eater.

For some cases, the arbitration process is just plain ridiculous.

I mean, obviously it makes sense if you're talking about a Tim Lincecum or a Prince Fielder, the kind of guys who have been putting up stellar seasons for years and actually deserve raises.

But with Koji, we're talking about a guy who made 12 starts before getting hurt in his first season and then pitched just 44 innings as a reliever in his second. Sure, those 44 innings were very impressive, but still, the guy is going to get a substantial raise because he was good for half a season? Come on...

I guess if we offer Koji arbitration, he turns it down, then we re-sign him to a new contract, we won't get the draft pick, will we? That would make me laugh.

And MountainFan, I think there is some kind of rule for arbitration that the new salary can't drop by more than 20%. Seems like I read that at some point but where I do not remember.

Mountain, that's a good point you bring up. I've heard many times that retaining Millwood is something about which they are thinking. He did pitch well at times last year and especially turned it on after Buck arrived. He could be the veteran innings eater they seek. My guess is he'll be out there until mid to late January and then might sign an incentive laden contract with someone or even settle for a spring training invite somewhere, if no one signs him before. There's no reason to think he wouldn't or couldn't come back here, at a substantially reduced rate, of course.
There's no way he's gonna get 12 million from anyone.

Any idea what the O's range (wish) is to re-sign Uehara? If the arbitration # isn't that far away, it is almost a no-brainer since they could go into ST with an almost set 'pen on a 1 year deal, which is the length they want.

Also, its a fun time of year for baseball but
it seems very docile so far for FAs vs. the feeding frenzy that used to exist. Maybe the teams are waiting for the non-tneders before they go nuts on FAs. Can't wait for the winter meetings to perk up the process.

Jeff Z's reply: Not sure exactly, just know they'd really like to get him on one-year deal. As for free agents, I agree. Remember, there are new rules out this year that encourages agent/teams to keep the talks private to avoid collusion and issues like that. A lot of agents have listened, some haven't. Either way, there is a lot going on behind the scenes but some of that stuff hasn't surfaced this offseason as it has in previous ones.

Jeff, I've seen some surprising players get nontendered because their agent seems bent on testing the FA waters, and the team has a cheaper alternative in the wings for that final year, that could really cost them in plenty in arbitration.

All year long we heard how these young pitchers really looked to Millwood as that seasoned veteran that you want on a staff. If Kevin filled that role effectively and he pitched well early and then after Buck arrived, it just doesn't seem that farfetched to work out a deal that was beneficial to both sides.

If there is a rule against more then a 20% cut in arbitration, it should have taken about 5 seconds to decide not to pay Millwood 9.6m.

The 20 p.c. cut limit for arbitration applies only to cases involving players who haven't yet hit free agency. For someone like Millwood, in which it's basically an extension of a FA contract, there is no limit to how much much the offer can be reduced. But an unrealistically low figure will probably not have much chance of winning.

Do you think the Orioles would be amenable to a one year contract with Koji that included milestones that, if achieved, would trigger a second year? I think it's more than reasonable that the club have some assurance that he will remain healthy in the closer's role and effective. If somebody else offers two guaranteed years, the Orioles would have to look long and hard with regards to matching it. It would be a very tough call. While it would be difficult to lose the Koji who pitched lights out from August on, it's similarly tough to ignore what happened prior to July 31.

Jeff Z's reply: Sure, I think an incentive-based option that could vest if he makes a certain number of appearances or pitches a certain number of innings could be in play.

I would think Uehara would not fair well as full time closer. Throwing the ball at 85 MPH??? Teams would start to tee off as the season progressed
What is your opinion Jeff

Jeff Z's reply: Interesting question that I've pondered many times and asked scouts about often. Some think that the more teams see koji, the better they'll adjust to him and the more aggressive they'l be and Koji could be in trouble. But there are other scouts who point out how deceptive he can be and how much movement he gets on his pitches. He pitched an awful lot the last two months of the season and teams saw plenty of him and yet he still was getting people out. I'm sure he'd give up his share of homers, but I think a pitcher who pounds the strike zone and changes speeds is going to be successful more often than not.

Look we need to resign Koji and Ty back to even have a chance to still be considered a Major League team. Koji in the second half was phenominal and there's not much I need to say about Wiggy. Wiggy is the best utility man in the league hands down and I think he should start this year either at third or first. We need his bat, with him and Luke with some power and maybe if Andy McFail can get his head out of his butt maybe we can sign a decent power bat to compliment these guys. A power bat will hands down help everyone in this lineup. The lineup of Roberts, Jones, Markakis, Konerko or Dunn, Scott, Wiggy, Pie, Wieters, Izzy or Hardy would look good next year. WIth a Power bat and a new hitting coach who believes in working the count could bring our OBP up by atleast 100 points. Then possibly more runs, which means more wins. We don't need another pitcher, we just don't let our young arms earn their pay checks. Look at San Francisco's pithching staff other than Zito, what maybe average age of 22-24(World Series Champs). And I don't like Hardy or Bartlett, I would rather see Drew come over from the Dbacks and not give away David Hernandez in the process because when he's on, he's ICE COLD. Trade Simon, Riemold, or Pie, somebody like that instead of our decent young pitchers. What do you think Z?

No Millwood is a No-Brainer. 8 more wins and 8 less losses (at least) put the O's at 74 wins. On the way to above .500.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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